Mugabe Preaches Peace for Zimbabwe Elections; Churches Face Intimidation

Robert Mugabe, the infamous dictator president of Zimbabwe, is calling upon lawmakers in his fractured coalition government to preach peace to the population ahead of upcoming elections.

The 87-year-old dictator, who used a devastating “campaign of terror” against his own citizens in 2008 elections that included the burning of entire villages and heinous torturing of citizens, called upon lawmakers to avoid violence during the new election period. He said to cabinet members at a Tuesday session of parliament, “Let’s in unison say no to violence in all its manifestations.”

The coalition government consists of the Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front (ZANU PF) party and the Movement for Democratic Change.

The coalition was formed following disputed 2008 elections. However, according to Peter Godwin, a Zimbabwe expert, the hard power within the collation government remains in the hands of Mugabe and his ZANU PF party.

Godwin, spoke last year to the journal, Perspectives on Global Issues, about the potentiality of Zimbabwe’s upcoming elections and said, “The situation on the ground is very similar [to 2008]. ZANU PF still control all the security forces, the repressive laws are fundamentally still the same. Many of the benchmark reforms agreed to with the opposition have been blocked by Mugabe.”

Mugabe’s call for peace comes at a time when the country is saddled with staggering problems including an unemployment rate of 95 percent, a high prevalence of HIV among the population, and an average life expectancy of 49 years.

With the two political parties in the country vying for votes in a society riddled with grave problems, churches in the country are reporting that they are facing harassment and intimidation by the ZANU PF.

Zimbabwe has a large Christian population and churches are facing attacks and harassment if they are deemed to be "non-cooperative" with Mugabe's political party. Some reports are suggesting that churches are being “pressed into service by the regime to cement its hold on power.”

Church members and pastors have been killed and tortured as a result, but some in government-affiliated churches present themselves as avid Mugabe supporters, and are going to such length to support Mugabe that they are telling their followers that Mugabe is the “Archangel Gabriel and God’s anointed ruler for Africa.”

Considering unfair laws and oppression are holding steady in the country, and the memory of Mugabe's 2008 torture campaign remains fresh in people's minds, it is likely that regardless of Mugabe’s calls for “peaceful elections,” most Zimbabweans will feel anything but safe.